I want to begin by thanking all who supported my trip in both prayer and in the giving of gifts and monies. Everything about this trip was so down to the wire that it was impossible to not see God’s hand in it. We bought our plane tickets about 2 weeks before we were to leave and the budget we were given by the missionaries covered our costs down to the dollar. We got or passport and visas in the mail about 6 days before we were to leave. My sister, Emily, was also able to get seats next to ours though she bought her tickets 2 days later (she will be staying down there for the next 7 months so you can keep her in your prayers). Even our luggage at 52 pounds which they graciously let slide as the limit was 50 pounds. The zipper on my suitcase also bore the tension of the limit pushing. It was separating from the fabric but thankfully survived the trip.
For those who didn’t know the purpose of our trip to
As I mentioned earlier, our trip was down to the wire in every way. When we finally arrived in Altamira (after passing through Rio De Janeiro and Belem) 36 hours after we left Port Columbus, we showered, handed out the gifts that many of you kindly donated, called my wife to let her know we arrived safely, hugged my sister goodbye and then left for the docks. We had an 11 hour boat ride ahead of us before reaching our final destination of Porto de Moz. There was no room for error or rest for that matter. Here is an image of a rainbow that reminded me of God’s provision in all of the chaos, which we saw while waiting out an unexpected 2 hour delay (down from the originally estimated 4- hour + delay) on the last leg of our trip in
On the boat ride up to Porto de Moz I became acquainted with Marveson, an 11 year old Brazilian who was the son of one of the other passengers.
He really liked my camera which had the five pound zoom lens attached. I showed him how to take the picture and view the resulting image and I carefully put the camera strap around his neck. He was thrilled. He started snapping away and quickly grew bolder. I think he had been watching my technique as he shot 2-3 shots for every subject instead of just one. He would then show the best image to the subject for their approval. He wandered the boat shooting for about 45 minutes. Every now and then I would peek out to make sure he wasn’t dangling over the edge of the boat with the camera that weighed about a third of his total body weight. After a bit I asked for the camera back to get a couple shots of my own. I snapped a few and then looked through the images he had taken as well. You can see some of the images below:
He took some AMAZING shots. His composition was fantastic even if his exposures were, for the most part, dialed in for him. I soon realized however, that there weren’t as many shots on the memory card than I thought there should be. I also noticed that the first shots on the card were ones that he had taken and not the images I had taken the day before. Somehow in his quest to explore all that my camera had to offer, young Marveson had formatted my memory card and deleted every single image. Fortunately this happened on the morning of the second day of the trip and all I had really lost were some images of the gift handout from the night before and a couple of the boat trip pics from earlier that morning. As a result I will stress a big THANK YOU again to those for you who donated food and books and DVDs and coffee for the missionaries. Though I don’t have the images to prove it, they were ecstatic. It was a second Christmas for them.
The rest of the boat trip went well. Marveson was not given a second chance to take more pictures. Here are a couple shots from the ride:
Upon reaching the docks at Porto de Moz we were informed that we had been carrying a freight of gravel that was to be used by the water filtration camp. We were then met by a crew of guys that were hand loading the bags into a dump truck that was heading up to the site. By the way, the bags had been hand filled the day before and then hand loaded onto the boat. It took two full trips of the dump truck to hall it all to the site.
Once we got to the site, Richie gave us a tour of the water facility. He explained how the filters work. He also showed us the local Vineyard church. After that we hung out with his family at the house for the rest of the day. We went to the Shuhaskeria (sp?) for dinner which is where meat is brought out to you on skewers and you point to the cut you want. The moon was bigger and brighter than I think I have ever seen:
The next day we were joined by fifteen youth from the Porto de Moz church. Cley and Clea are brother and sister.
There were also two other sisters among the fifteen. This was a ministry for them as they were to go into the villages when we docked in order to invite everyone to the nightly church service we were holding. We then had a 2-3 hour boat ride up to Caraá(?) where we stopped and Tim performed a procedure on a girl there. She had an abscess under her arm that he removed. Though he was able to numb the tissue on the abscess, he wasn’t able to completely numb the area. She was very brave.
Meanwhile the teens were fishing and riding the resident’s horse and playing their Tetris video game (I saw every one of those youth with the game over the course of the week).
We pushed off for another short boat rie up to Cordoza. Jeremy was lying low all day as he was fighting flu-like symptoms. He felt nauseous and being in the sun wasn’t going to help him. When we docked he stayed on the boat and out of the sun and I shot some video for him of the youth as they played soccer.
I went inside a couple of the houses in Cordoza and watched as Richie and
After hanging out and playing dominos and taking pictures of all the staring children, several of us went out in the canoe to fish for a bit.
We also stopped to visit a family who had recently received one of the water filters to see how they were doing.
We returned to the village in time to eat dinner and a killer sunset.
After that was church. Two of the youth, Ivanildo and Heif, gave their testimonies
They spoke with such conviction and authority and passion! Cley, who is the primary youth leader, brought the teaching. Richie also spoke a word he felt was laid on his heart. Several people responded after the teaching and received prayer from the youth.
The next morning
We delivered the filters to grateful recipients.
They purchase the filters for $20 Reals which converts to about $12 dollars. The thought behind this is that if the filters are free the recipients will think they are worthless and not contact them if there is any issue with the filter’s performance. And this is exactly what we did after we delivered the first two filters. We also visited a lady whose filter had become infested with red ants. The ants had worked out a system where they were pulling the sand out of the water for their own use! There were thousands of these ants. If you stood still for too long you were getting bit. The 2 year old boy who lived there wasn’t even fazed by the ants.
After we returned to the village, Tim did a couple medical consults. The typical medical condition he encounters in small villages is gastritis, dehydration, worms, STD’s and arthritis. He can easily treat some while some of the STD’s are untreatable with the medicine he has. Some of the villagers are able to make it to town to a hospital but most aren’t that lucky. As you can see in the below picture, this man was lucky enough to have made it to a hospital and had x-rays from his visit but his pain persists and he has yet to pay off his bill from the trip.
At the end of every consultation, Tim offers to pray for the patient. His belief is that without God’s help the medicine can only do so much. Many of the health problems are hard to diagnose and the odd combination of symptoms often point to a spiritual element. This is something I have come across through the Soaking Prayer ministry. For example, if someone is harboring unforgiveness for a long time they will often times have back and neck pains that don’t go away until they forgive the person and repent of their unforgiveness. After this forgiveness the pain almost always goes away.
After the consults we had lunch as provided by the village. They had slaughtered a pig just for us and stewed the meat. Though it was tasty I first had to cut the top 2 layers of skin and hair and fat off the meat. It was a pretty sobering experience. I started to consider vegetarianism.
As we got ready to leave the
After an hour boat ride we arrived at Bom Jesus. The sunset was glorious and we enjoyed it from our hammocks on the boat. On the ride up we saw everything from herds of water buffalo to wild horses. When we arrived, Richie and
Instead of church that night we had a dance party on the dock thanks to the energetic youth and the music playing on our battery powered radio. Flashlights beamed around like a disco and everyone laughed as Jeremy and a couple of the youth had a Krump-off. He also taught them the timeless game of “Hot Hands”. Later, the youth started a fire and roasted some of the day’s fresh fish. The moon rose bright and the night air was cool and we enjoyed the salty fish on the dock. I stayed up rather late talking to Jeremy and Richie about faith and evil and how merciful Jesus is with us. The teens on board stayed busy playing video games on my phone. Their favorite was Asteroids, which they pronounced “Ashterdoids”.
The next morning we all went into town to hold a church service. Many from the village came out for it. Clyde spoke and several people received prayer at the end of the service.
Following service Tim headed to the town’s hospital to do a few consults. His plan was to do a brief session as he was low on meds and it was getting to be close to lunch. I headed for a walk with the youth to explore the town. Here is some of what I saw in this town:
After about an hour I ended up at the hospital to check in on Tim. There was a mob worthy of a Brangelina sighting surrounding the door to the hospital. After pushing through the mob I entered the cramped, humid room. Tim was had been seeing people for an hour already and the consultations were taking about 3-5 minutes each. Soon after I got there they patients started coming in two at a time. All the health issues were about the same. Gastritis, worms, dehydration, muscle ache, STD’s, arthritis. I sat with Tim for two more hours. Towards the end some of the clients were on their second visit. This time they had new symptoms. As the city was a day’s travel away they were going to get as many free meds as they could. Every time we asked Richie how many more people were waiting outside the hospital to be seen he said “ten.” There must have been 4 or 5 sets of “ten” people that Tim saw.
Below is a picture I took of Tim a couple days before. Though it wasn't taken during this particular session of consults I thought it was a dramatic image of a third world doctor catching a rare and much appreciated moment of rest.
After we saw the last of the people waiting at the hospital we had to pop over and see an old lady with a snake bite who was unable to come to the hospital. Tim, who in my untrained opinion speaks great Portuguese, had a bit of a hard time communicating all he wanted to the patients he was seeing. He would occasionally pull out his pocket digital translator to look up the word “elevate” or “gull bladder”. He checked the lady’s snake bite as well as all her relatives’ wounds and aches and concerns, before we headed back to the boat for a late lunch. As we pushed off to return to Caraá, Tim and I wolfed down our meals. I was also fighting a headache due to the heat in that room and a lack of food and liquids (and probably caffeine too).
When we arrived back at Caraá I rested for a bit as Jeremy did a bit of fishing to his delight. He was sick the other day when the other guys went fishing and Jeremy, an avid fisher, was bound to catch some Piranha. And that he did. But not before Richie upstaged Jeremy with his 6 year old daughter’s pink Barbie fishing rod. That got a laugh out of us all. They went on to catch about 15 fish, half of which were snapping Piranhas. The funny thing about that is that the youth were all swimming in the Piranha infested waters without any problems but the moment you dropped a piece of food in the water it disappeared in a flash of white and teeth. Later, both Richie and Jeremy were upstaged by one of the guys who lives in Caraá who, while spear fishing, had caught a fish that was bigger than all the fish they had caught combined.
That night we ate dinner in the dark as the mosquitoes were especially nasty. After dinner we soaked ourselves in Deet and held a church service in one of their houses. They fired up the generator just for the occasion. In many of the villages the only power they have is provided by generators. There are no phone lines, no roads or cars (only boats got you to these villages) and definitely no power. One of the village residents really missed her soap operas, however, and opted to get a T.V., satellite and a generator.
The church service went great. Again, Cley taught and the youth prayed over several people at the end of the service. It is so amazing to see these kids weeping as they pray over others. These youth truly have an overdeveloped perspective for their age and for any age. They didn’t fight amongst each other once though confined to a tight boat all week. It took little to get them excited and they had a tremendous amount of joy and an acute sense of humor. After service was more dancing and "Hot Hands". All in all it was another very full day.
Later that night we buckled down for a long night swatting mosquitoes. Theses particular mosquitoes had long noses which allowed them to bite us through our clothes and hammocks. Deet didn’t really work either. I put in my ear plugs and pulled my hammock around my face and fortunately because of my long day I fell asleep quickly.
The next day and a few mosquito bites later we headed back into one of the houses as Tim was to perform another surgery. This time it was more cosmetic in nature. One of the girls had a bump on her leg she wanted removed. He was able to more completely numb the area in this case and he removed it with no problem.
This village in specific boasts the production of a great
After that a
The death of the first pig shut the other pigs up quick. Next, they castrated the two male pigs. Without this their meat is supposedly inedible. I had to go back to the boat and cover my ears for that ordeal.
After recovering from the trauma of witnessing these events and now seriously considering vegetarianism, we returned to our boat to eat ribs and pork with beans and rice for lunch. It was quite good and, according to Jeremy, some of the best ribs he has ever had.
We had a three hour boat ride back to Porto de Moz which allowed us to rest a bit. We also got a group shot as this was probably one of our last times together. I talked to Richie for a bit and the kids and the kids took turns playing the acoustic guitar and Tetris as the sun set and the air cooled. We even got to see the elusive pink Amazon dolphins swimming not too far from our boat.
After service ended we went over to Richie’s house which is literally two doors down from the church. He has cable and so we watched a bit of the election news and we called our wives for the first time in 5 days. It was great living the city life again. Christie, Richie’s wife, made us frozen coffees and we had Brazilian pizza for dinner. This meant that instead of pizza sauce and pepperoni there was salami topped with mayonnaise, ketchup, olives and peas. Needless to say I was a little disappointed as I had been envisioning Pizza Hut when they told us what we were having for dinner.
After dinner we all crashed. Richie and Christie slept in their kid’s room and gave us their air-conditioned bedroom! We also were able to take a fresh water shower (no more river water) and we had a real bathroom with a comfortable toilet. The luxuries of life.
The next day we grabbed some footage of the church band doing practice. Jeremy and I went swimming with some of the youth kids. It was our last day in the hot climate and we had yet to swim. After we got back from swimming we had lunch with Richie’s family and
By the time the interviews were finished we had about 10 minutes before our line boat left for
We boarded the boat, which has a posted capacity of 60 but was filled with well over 100 passengers and their luggage and hammocks. I ran into young Marveson (of the camera memory incident) and let him take a few more shots, this time with his very own memory card. We were fed a good dinner on the boat with the boat’s engine cover as our table.
I have never before experienced anything like that boat ride. I literally had to climb over people to get around. After I made it back upstairs, Jeremy and Richie and I stayed up trading stories for a while. During our 11 hour boat ride to
We arrived at
If you have made it this far in the blog, the Lord bless you. Thank you all for your interest and prayerful support in this trip. There was much I am sure I left out as well. You can see more pictures from this trip on my Flickr page here: http://www.flickr.com/groups/xingumission/pool/52764273@N00/
If any of you have a chance to visit our brothers and sisters in